Mary S

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Everything posted by Mary S

  1. I have always done a stitch or two back, then start off in the direction I'm going to be going, as some others have described. I recently read a lot of messages elsewhere from those who knot and bury their threads, though, and one suggestion I got there that I plan to try is to use self-threading needles to speed up the process and bury each thread as you go so you don't end up with a dozen hours' work after you take the quilt off the machine. I'm not advocating this method, because I haven't even tried it yet, but it's another method some use. I don't plan to change my usual way of stopping and starting, but want to try this on a wedding gift I'm giving (it's my test piece for this) in case I might want to do it on anything I plan to enter in a show. Mary Smart Millenium:D Vermillion SD
  2. I just read these again to see anything new since last time I looked. I need one of those many-pocketed aprons. But seeing these suggestions reminded me of one of my other most-loved, have-to-have, small, inexpensive tools. It's my Chacoliner -- small, plastic, lipstick-sized case with powdered chalk that comes out along a rolling metal wheel. It makes a very visible, thin line of chalk, works well marking along a ruler or template, and it's amazing how often it comes in handy -- to mark off repeat spaces, to mark a feather vein, etc. You can refill it with any powdered chalk. I found mine at a quilt shop. One of those little things that makes life easier. Mary Smart Millenium:cool: Vermillion SD
  3. Barb -- I never did get my Hartley extended base to work well. Mine constantly caught one of its plastic edges or corners on the quilt backing and would then release, making jerky stitching lines when I was trying hard for something not jerky, of course. I have been told that it will work correctly if you use some (2-3 or more) big washers to raise the roller heights 1/2" or so. I think the idea is to hold the quilt top higher so it doesn't catch on the pointy corners of that extended base. I hadn't heard that suggested at the time, so I bought a different extended base from Donita Reeves website at To use it, you unscrew the plate the needle goes through and replace it with this extended base. I leave it on all the time. It's metal with a nice, smooth, rounded, beveled edge, so it never catches on the backing. But to use the one you have, you might think about whether raising the rollers would remove the problem you're having. I don't know if it would help or not. Mary Smart Millenium Vermillion SD
  4. Hello -- I absolutely love the Hobbs wool. I got it for myself but as a few customers have asked about it (I have some samples quilted with it), some have switched and they love it, too. It's great if you're quilting a lot on one top -- the quilt top doesn't get as stiff as it sometimes does if you stipple and quilt a lot on the 80/20. My customers and I have used a gob of 80/20, but lately some have complained in various lists online about problems with quality (stinky rolls, grease spots), so I'm considering trying Quilter's Dream 70/30 instead on my next order. Ordering from Hobbs directly you have to get 4 big rolls at a time -- too expensive for me and I don't have enough space for four on top of what I already have in stock -- so I get just what I want by the big roll from other online vendors instead. I haven't ordered QD yet but you can order just one roll or one batt or whatever from them. They have a $25 sample pack available with a craft-size batt of all of their kinds (different thicknesses of poly and 80/20, their new 70/30, black, flame-retardant for kids) if you want to make up samples for customers to see or just check them out yourself -- seems like a nice deal if you're deciding what to carry. Some customers bring their own but most use mine - they pick what they want - I do charge but less than their buying a package that size. For packaged OR off the roll (because that is folded in half before rolled), I toss the piece cut to size in my dryer with a wet washcloth and let bounce around on med-high heat for 15 minutes or so to get out the creases -- works great. Mary Smart Vermillion SD
  5. Barbi -- I was new 16 months ago and my best advice to you starting up is just not to spend too much till you know what your customers want. There is a lot out there, it is all tempting, and it's easy to spend ALL of your profits on stuff -- better to find out what you actually will use. A friend told me about Hobby Lobby -- they have great sales regularly, you can check online, and that's where I find all widths of muslin for backings. Most of my customers bring their own, but I felt the need to have something basic on hand for those who don't -- I have used quite a bit of muslin that way. I have 90" and 108" wide on bolts. You can also get quantity discounts on bolts of muslin from Hancocks-Paducah online or in the catalog. But one bolt of 90" wide will get you going. I also have 90" wide bleached muslin now and have used that, too, when only white will do. Most of my customers get my batting, but I have had someone bring a packaged batt 3-4 times. A big roll of batting takes up a lot of space, so I have 96" wide Hobbs 80/20, Hobbs Wool, Hobbs Polydown, and 120" wide 80/20 for really big quilts (haven't used it yet but have a king coming soon that will). I don't order from Hobbs -- have to get four at a time from them and that's a lot of money when I usually only need one at a time as I use one up. I get it from Kingsmen Quilting Supply -- they'll sell just one and it comes very fast, great customer service. They sell lots of other things, too. If I were just starting, I'd probably get Hobbs Polydown and Hobbs 80/20 (what my customers mostly ask for, what I use up fastest) -- and maybe try Quilter's Dream. The wool is fabulous and I love it, but it costs more and I don't have a lot of quilters who ask for it (I got it for myself really) -- although once they try it for something special, they all have loved it, too, so I expect to sell more of that all the time. I haven't ordered Quilter's Dream batting yet, but they have customer service people rave about and very nice batting -- you can get just one roll at a time from them, but I'm told you should have your state sales tax number in hand when you call to place an order. They have poly and cotton as well as a 70/30 blend (cotton/poly) and flame resistant for kids' quilts and black, too. But I'd still say to start, get poly and cotton or cotton blend, then see what your customers ask for and get that. Have some muslin on hand but probably most will have their own backing. Get some good thread in basic colors, some neutral and some you know you can use (red & green you can use on Christmas items for sure, for example, and Mother Goose goes on more than you think it will - it's a great neutral) -- then order as you need it. You can spend a fortune fast on thread, and there is new wonderful stuff all the time -- don't invest too much till you know what your machine likes and what you like and what your customers color choices tend to be. Once you get a backlog of as little as two weeks, you can order thread to have the right color for every quilt top that comes to you and have it when you need it. Someone told me to get two cones of each color to have one for winding bobbins without having to take the cone off the machine -- but I don't do that -- I'd rather be able to buy more colors than get two of everything, some of which I may never use up. If it's for a wallhanging, I can order spools or small cones instead of large ones. And if you settle on one kind you just love eventually, you can gradually accumulate more and more of it -- but find out if it really is the one for you before investing in lots of it. I like to special order the right colors and type of thread for each top, so I have bought some color cards -- that have real thread of every color in a line. Some are expensive ($17 for Aurifil cotton, $17 for Aurlilux poly, where I got them, $20 for Isacord, a strong poly thread that comes in a huge array of colors), but Superior Threads has lots of color cards with thread for only $3 apiece (and they have great service, too, a guarantee on their thread, and a very useful email newsletter you can sign up for at their website). Good luck on getting started. It's so much fun -- you will love it. Sorry for being so wordy, but this is advice I wish I had had when I was buying my first supplies. Mary Smart Vermillion SD;)
  6. Two of my favorite gadgets cost $5 or less and I wouldn't want to have to get by without them. One is a $5 clip-on cable for the little scissors I use to clip threads (clips to whatever I'm wearing, just pull out the scissors to use then they pull back - got it at a local quilt shop -- in fact I keep buying them when I wear one out because I love using one); the other is a $3.75 finger pincushion from Joann's. When I bought that little pincushion on elastic, I wondered if it would just be goofy thing that ended up in the trash -- but no, it puts the pins right where I need them, next to my fingers as I pin -- even closer than a wrist pin cushion, and yet it holds enough to pin the side of a long quilt. I just load it up before I start. For another little beauty, I love Sherry D. Roger's Dainty Ditcher. It's a small, palm-sized straight edge guide for stitching in the ditch, easy to move along a quilt top. It's great and it was $7.50, so a good price, too. It's wonderful when you find some little handy inexpensive thing that makes life easier, isn't it? Mary Smart Vermillion SD:D
  7. Jean -- Thanks much for that advice. This is something I will try next time I wind bobbins. Some bobbins work very well and I had finally realized lately that it was those that are slightly looser that don't. I hadn't thought of trying batting to make them fit better. It's sure nice to have access to other people's ideas here. Mary Smart Vermillion SD:D
  8. Sherry-- Thank you so much for the information. I will contact APQS to find out about getting the lexon from them -- I never even thought about the table top -- of course that would work. With that I can start training myself to sit down for more of the quilting. Thanks again. Mary
  9. I appreciate the help. Sherry, where did you get your lexon? That is what I need -- I'm on anti-fatigue mats and it's hard to roll sideways on those. And White Rooster -- I found my stool at It is their model ST205-OS -- a padded saddle seat, backless, with pneumatic adjustable height and tilt adjustment. It was $125.07 there -- when I got it there was no charge for shipping. Someone on a longarm list suggested it, and it was just what I wanted. Now to find that lexon so I can move sideways. Thank you SO MUCH for the help. Mary Smart Millenium Vermillion SD
  10. I know some longarm quilters have figured out how to adjust their machines so they can quilt sitting, and I think that I need to find out how to do the same. I bought a saddle stool I can adjust so it allows me to sit at the same height as if I were standing, but I can't move it sideways very well when going along quilting a border or sashing horizontally across a quilt. I don't know if the hydraulic lift would help, because it doesn't look as if my table can be lowered enough to make much difference. But I'm having a lot of knee problems lately, due to worsening arthritis, and I have to admit, after months of denial, that it is beginning to cut into my quilting time. I work a 40-hour a week office job, too -- and after a year of being able to do both happily, I'm beginning to think that I can't come home after work and quilt evenings while standing long enough hours without some changes. I need to find some better ways to adjust myself to the machine or it to me. Any suggestions or ideas will be hugely appreciated. I do LOVE quilting on my Millenium and I don't want to even slow down if I can find a way to keep on keeping on. Mary Smart Vermillion SD:(
  11. Jamie & Bert -- I haven't had trouble with my wheels but I have read other things from people about how much they love their edgerider wheels. Since you both have them, did you get them for a Millenium or some other machine? Can they be put on a Millenium with the stitch regulator? Just curious. Mary Smart Vermillion SD
  12. Just wanted to throw in my 2 cents here, because one of the things I could not quilt without is my Illuminator. It's a snake-neck light that clamps on the top of my machine. Got it from Donita Reeves at I have overhead fluorescent lights with full spectrum bulbs and don't always need the Illuminator, but having a light that is cast sideways across the stitching means you can really see very well where you have been and where you need to go. Much of the time I don't really need to have the Illuminator on, although I'm learning to appreciate it and use it more often. But when you're sewing dark or very light thread on a matching background, it makes the difference between being able to see what you're doing -- and have already done -- and not seeing well at all. So whether you get the Illuminator or not, find a way to get light that goes sideways across the stitching. Even if you don't always need it, when you DO need it, you really need it to see -- especially when you're moving fast. Mary Smart Millenium Vermillion SD
  13. Nita asked about why have index cards. A friend in the business three years before I started suggested I keep a book from the beginning and list each quilt separately -- name of customer, size, what I did, color of thread, name of pattern, price charged, etc -- and number each one. Then I have an index card for each customer, too, and I list each one I do for them on their card, too -- list the # from my book and the date I finished it and the price. The reason? As my friend warned me, just in case in two years Jane Doe comes in and wants her quilt done like Sarah Moe's quilt -- I can look up Sarah Moe, find the quilt's number and look it up in my book. Lots easier than looking up every quilt in the book. I've only been doing customer work for a year, and I have a full-time office job, too, and I am up to 105 quilts so far. So there are lots of ways to go about this, but find a system that lets you look up quilts somehow. I also take 3 digital photos of each one -- whole front, closeup, back -- and have those on my computer so I can look at any of the quilts, too, if I want to for any reason -- like doing the same thing for someone else or just to see something I remember and think might work on some other quilt. Mary Smart Vermillion SD:)
  14. I have had good luck with Rheingold metallic gold thread and I've used silver with no trouble (but don't know the brand of that), in both cases running them just like any other thread except loosening the tension a little on top and using Bottom Line in the bobbin for a smooth bobbin thread that won't break it. I have read, though, that if you have trouble with the metallic thread breaking, you can help it along by running it with polyester invisible thread -- both threads through the same needle hole. I've done that, too, and it worked fine and only the gold showed. Mary Smart Vermillion SD:D
  15. I have never done an Irish Chain on my longarm, but I did long diagonal lines on my domestic sewing machine on a Burgoyne Surrounded years ago, and the warning about long stitching lines breaking is a good one. Every time we used that quilt, we could hear thread breaking whenever we pulled it up and even when I was making the bed. When I got my longarm, I loaded that finished quilt up and redid it entirely with circles and other designs, because it was so full of broken threads. A long stitching line across the diagonal is on the quilt's bias, which stretches, and it will break. So it is better, even with stops and starts, to have it made up of a number of separate stitching lines. Mary Smart Vermillion SD
  16. I have also heard that the blue pen marks really need complete rinsing (not just spritzing) to be completely removed, an a friend of mine was once horrified to see a quilt of hers, which she had washed to get those out, hanging in a show with the blue marks reappearing as brown shadow. When I did a customer's elaborate heirloom quilt with blue pen, I asked her permission to rinse her quilt in the wash cycle of my washing machine, just so I KNEW it was well rinsed with water only, no soap, and cold water so it wouldn't get set or reappear later. She was glad to have me do it. I let it air dry. I don't know if I end up doing a lot of this for customers if I will want to do that rinsing myself, but it worked out fine that time. If using blue pens, though, I would get the customer's permission AND explain that they need to get the marks out thoroughly with a complete rinse themselves if they don't have you do it for them. Mary Smart Vermillion SD
  17. Judy said it all SO well, it hardly needs more comment, but I'll just add this. I have belonged to two quilt guilds (because I moved) that had such awful internal battles -- nothing related to longarms at all -- that one disappeared completely and the other broke into two very separate groups. So if there was no longarm competition issue, there might be something else driving a wedge between people in groups like this . . . what I really mean is, try not to take it personally. . I'm fascinated to hear it's those who were considering or wanting to get longarms who seemed most upset. I wouldn't have thought of it, but I guess it makes sense. More and more people get longarm machines all the time, and if you want one but haven't jumped yet, I suppose you might be afraid it'll be too late for you when you finally feel you can get one -- fear that the market will be saturated. Especially when you factor in that you can't get one and be in business the next day -- it does require some practice time (though people vary a whole lot on how much of that they take). I don't think the market is saturated yet, but some do -- it probably depends on where you live and how much work there is there. But it also appears that there are more quilt shops and more quilters all the time, too. That magazine, Quilt Sampler, with 10 quilt shops featured in every issue has gone from one to two issues a year and the last time I noticed how short a time many of the 10 had been open -- lots of them were very new. I think this is still a growing thing at all stages of the quilt-making proces -- more books, more shops, more fabrics, more threads, more types of batting, more quilt-top makers, more quilters. Mary Smart Vermillion SD
  18. I usually quilt without marking at all if I can do what I want that way, but you're right -- if you want to do some particular things with your quilting, you just have to mark. For real heirloom feathers and cables, I have used both blue pens (with customer permission) and also powdered chalk in a pounce with stencils. If you want to closely follow a line, for me it just about has to be the blue pens -- the chalk tends to bounce or rub off so it gives me a general line but not a tight fine line to follow. I mark the blue before loading but the chalk after loading as I go. For things that combine marking and freehand -- such as marking a vein but putting in feathers freehand -- I use a chacoliner (refillable lipstick-sized plastic gizmo that rolls a thin line of chalk just where you want it) and those work great -- they make a really nice fine visible line. If I want a stencil pattern without blue pen, I use powdered chalk in a pounce -- spritz the top with water first so it doesn't all bounce off. I have tried the paper a number of times and I just can't make it work in any way I like -- it tears, it ends up over the hopping foot so I can't see where I'm stitching, and it leaves gobs of itsy-bitsy pieces of paper after you tear it off (even if you don't see them -- try taking out 6" of stitching and you'll find lots of it). What I haven't tried on a regular quilt but would work similarly to paper but not tear and not leave stuff behind is Dissolve (and maybe Sulky or other brands) dissolvable sheets. I used Dissolve to quilt the pieces for a quilted jacket from a Laura Lee Fritz pattern, on my longarm, as the pattern suggested -- marked the pattern in black Sharpie on the Dissolve sheets, pinned it over the quilt sandwich, and I could stitch it all without any tearing so I could see the lines AND all of the stitches. It's like plastic enough that it has more give than paper and doesn't rip. The other benefit -- you tear off most of it (just as with paper) but then spritz it with water and what little bits there still are caught in the stitches dissolve away completely. Each kind of quilting design you might want to mark might call for a different method -- so the more methods you try and have available to use, the better. And the great advice I got from Dawn Cavanaugh on getting that chalk off once I use it to mark is to get one of those cheap dollar store lint brushes -- black handle with red fuzzy parts. That gets the chalk off beautifully. If I have used a lot, I also vacuum the quilt top with a small hand-held vac before I unload it. Mary Smart Vermillion SD
  19. I am working on the third of six tree table runners for one customer. She's giving them as Christmas gifts and wants them finished to hand out to family members on Thanksgiving. These must make at least fifteen of this same design that I've received to quilt all together in the last year. A local quilting teacher taught the class, I think in several places in the area, so lots of people have made it. I usually like more variety and I have plenty of other quilts on the shelf to do, but I have also gotten to be very fond of this table runner. My very first real customer brought me three of them. I've done a bunch over the last year and now six more all at once! I get a nice range of things to do usually, which keeps it interesting. I have had repeats of other quilts taught in area classes, too -- but nothing else in this quantity! Having quilted this one runner design so many times, though, and in a variety of ways, I have come to enjoy doing them as sort of a break from projects that are unique, require more planning, and are more of a challenge. And it's probably because this was the first design I ever quilted for money . . . it seems like an old friend. On the other hand, I hope someone teaches a new table runner class soon or I might end up having done another 15 or more by the end of 2005! Mary Vermillion SD:D
  20. I don't know HOW new you are, but that makes a difference. When I got my machine I made a bunch of muslin sandwiches to practice on -- then I let two friends who are serious quilters just try my machine to see how it feels. Both my first tries and theirs were ALL very square where there should have been curves -- the worst feathers you can imagine. Make the adjustments and wax your rails, do all the machine things that will help make it easier, but if you are brand new, really some of it may just be that you aren't used to it yet and some smooth curviness seems to come just from hours of practice. At least before I realized I was improving that much I was doing lots better. If you've been practicing a lot for a month or more, it may be a technical problem instead. But if you're newer than that, I suspect it'll get better just with time quilting on your machine. Mary Vermillion SD
  21. I really shouldn't answer because I haven't used the nylon thread on my longarm, although I have used it a lot on my domestic sewing machine. I have used the polyester monofilament thread, though, which is also invisible. If you have trouble with the nylon, maybe the polyester monofilament would work. They say it takes heat better and is less likely to turn yellow over time than the nylon, although it's fairly new so I'm not sure if they know for certain. The one I have tried is a Sulky thread, I think, but there are several brands of polyester monofilament thread out there. But as for tension. I have a dual spool holder that I attached close to the front of my machine for holding spools that aren't cross-wrapped like thread on cones is. I put monofilament or Bottom Line -- anything on a spool not a cone -- on that. I don't know if you're using a cone, but if you're using a spool where you usually put a cone, that might be the problem. The cone holder is for thread that you can see makes an X going up and down as it was wrapped while spool thread comes straight off the spool. I have heard that many people made their own spool holders by using duct tape to attach even something as simple as a crochet hook or pencil to hold the spool horizontal near the front of the machine -- just have the stick you put it on stick out to the side the threading it and have something to hold the spool on it, even just a rubber band wound around multiple times. I haven't done everything I've read about, but I have also heard people suggest going through only one hole of the 3-hole guide as well as loosing the tension with the knob. I hope that helps. APQS does sell the dual spool holder, if you don't have one already. Mary Smart Vermillion SD:)
  22. Hello! I took two days of "Threadplay" classes from Libby Lehman earlier this month. She is the designer of Bottom Line. She talked about the thead in class, and I just wanted to mention that if it sells enough in the 50 colors out now, she hopes they will expand the line to lots more colors. That would be great, so I encourage you all to use it. I had a customer bring it to me and ask me to use it the first time I heard of it -- she wanted it top and bottom on her quilt and it worked really well. I think it's especially nice when you are doing things like heirloom feathers where you have to backtrack and you want that build-up of thread to show up as little as possible on top. But it's also great in the bobbin when you're using specialty threads on top that need a smooth bobbin thread not to catch and break -- like with metallics or anything heavy or unusual. But for another suggestion for something similar that is fine so it also doesn't build up too fast but looks like cotton, although it is polyester (so also very strong), you might be interested in trying Superior's So Fine! thread designed by John Flynn. I really like them both and have used both Bottom Line and So Fine! in the bobbin and on top at the same time -- and just in the bobbin -- depending on what I'm doing. You can find both Bottom Line and So Fine! (as well as lots of other thread) at, and if you love Bottom Line, there you can get it in either spools or large cones. You can also sign up for an email newsletter there and get tips about thread and some nice special offers every month. I sound as if I work for them, but I don't. I like Signature cotton, YLI, and other threads, too. Mary Smart Vermillion SD:o
  23. I just have to add my two cents -- I love the Isacord thread, too. Another wonderful thing about it is that it comes in a huge array of colors. A quilt shop near me also has supplies for machine embroidery, and they have a tall case of all colors, a huge selection of shades -- I couldn't believe how many blues, how many reds, etc. They even have a special deal in which you can get 30 cones with a nice lidded see-through plastic case to hold them for a savings. I snapped up one of those months ago; I paid for all 30, got the box free, and they let me pick out the colors as I need them, I didn't have to choose all 30 that day. That is really handy for me because the shop is 60 miles away -- when I need one or more cones, I call them with the color numbers and they mail them to me. They have a free folder with all the colors, but last time I was there I bought a color card with real thread so customers can hold the actual thread up to their quilt and pick colors -- or for those who let me decide on thread, I can pick the one I want from a big selection. Isacord not only has a huge array of wonderful colors, it also has a lovely sheen and is very strong, too. The cones are smaller than the big cones of thread I buy for my longarm ordinarily, but so far I have found them to be big enough to get me through the quilts I have quilted with it. I will have to look for the tweezers next time I get to a quilt shop because they sound really useful, but elsewhere today I read about a "dainty ditcher" developed for stitching in the ditch by Sherry Rogers. Can anyone tell me where I can get one of those? It sounds great, and I am happy to get any help I can get on SID because I want that to be as nice as I can possibly get it. Mary Smart Vermillion SD:)
  24. The APQS information will be really useful to you, but there are three good books available that you might find really helpful while you're thinking about this. Each has a ton of information and lots of practical advice, pictures, how-to-do's on all sorts of things. I bought two and read them before ordering my machine and then again waiting for my machine to arrive -- bought the third as soon as I saw it was out -- I still go back to them if I have a question or need an idea. They are good no matter what machine you have and they tell you LOTS about running a quilting business. There are two books by Carol Thelen: Longarm Machine Quilting: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Using, & Maintaining a Longarm Machine -- and her new one, Professional Machine Quilting: The Complete Guide to Running a Successful Quilting Business. There is also Linda V. Taylor's The Ultimate Guide to Longarm Machine Quilting. All of these have information you will use when you start with your longarm -- but also lots of things you probably won't think of on your own that will help you -- both to decide it is or is not the business for you, and, if it is, things to help you get going without having to reinvent the wheel yourself. They're all three in paperback and well worth buying -- and while they do overlap, each has stuff the others don't have. You can get them online at or -- probably even used copies for less than full price. Mary Smart Vermillion SD:D
  25. There is one other thing you can do, especially if you want more room for testing or if there's not room on the sides of the quilt (the backing not that wide) or it's a customer quilt and you hesitate to do it there. You can take an old practice piece or make a new one with layers of muslin, batting, and muslin -- cut it long enough to fit across and around the rollers -- but narrower than the space left at the end of the quilt you're working on (at least most don't fit all the way to both ends). I use temporary clamps I bought at, which I love, but they say you can also cut up the cardboard tube inside rolls of batting (when you use one up) into lengths, slit on one side, and use those as temporary clamps -- or if you're careful to get it placed so it's even with the quilt top, you might be able to pull it around the right rollers and pin it into place. At any rate, once you have a practice piece on one end, you can try out thread tension until you get it right, but you can also practice motifs before doing them on a quilt top. I don't need to do this on every quilt, but when I want to, it's very handy to be able to use that space that way. You have to move it whenever you advance the quilt, but sometimes it is more than worth the trouble. That is easier than tearing out stitches at any rate. Mary Smart Vermillion SD